I’ve heard it said that “the church is the only institution that shoots its wounded.” Sadly, the idea possesses a real grain of truth. It’s not unusual for local churches to botch a crisis situation, causing members to leave deeply hurt.
The origins of crucifixion are unknown, but the Roman Empire was infamous for inflicting the debasing practice on society’s lowest. Yet today, the cross—the representative symbol of crucifixion—is often prominently displayed, cherished by believers in Jesus around the world.
Whenever I counsel couples considering divorce, I always start by asking them this question: What kind of relationship did your parents have? Children whose parents divorce are far more likely to do so themselves—in fact, men whose parents are no longer married are 35 percent more likely to divorce, and for women the likelihood is a startling 60 percent. Sometimes in order to heal our broken relationships, we have to look back at the relationships in our past.
Poet Carl Sandburg has said, “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” This thought rings true for many of us. Despite the diapers, frequent feedings, and sleepless nights, infants give renewed hope for the future.
The day’s news was discouraging. There was another terrorist attack. Two countries squabbled about a rogue nation’s nuclear weapons. A large Christian denomination divided over differences on marriage, while another split over how best to counter poverty and racism. Conflicts like these aren’t just discouraging, they’re exhausting. They persist—showing no signs of resolution.
The administration of former US president Richard Nixon was plagued by scandals, the most infamous being the break-in at the Watergate office building. When addressing the various improprieties of his administration, Nixon famously used the phrase, “Mistakes were made.” This allowed him to admit that something had gone wrong without actually taking direct responsibility. Even after he resigned from office in the face of mounting pressure, Nixon never admitted to any criminal wrongdoing.
Finlandia, composed in 1899, possessed the original title Finland Awakes. Sibelius’ brilliant masterpiece was part of the cultural resistance of Finland’s aggressive neighbor to the east. The symphonic poem begins ominously as brass and percussion swell to a raucous din. But sixty seconds into the clamor, the music softens to an elegant, peaceful beauty—harbinger of a better future for the nation. Finland would indeed awaken.
The ground smoldered for weeks after the fire. My parents’ farm in South Africa and the entire landscape around it had changed overnight. All that remained was the house and a few blackened trees. As I looked out over the ash-covered land, the sight was heartbreaking. How could this place recover? But then the rains came. As the earth cooled, tiny shoots pushed up between the ash, and within weeks green patchy grass covered the ground. Although altered forever, the farm was alive again. Many trees were lost in the blaze, but some struggled back to life. Soon the mangoes and lemons ripened once more, as delicious as ever.
A few years ago, I learned about a type of protein found in humans and animals called laminin. This protein, positioned outside cells, provides support for cells inside organs. Because laminin has the ability to bind like glue with other proteins and cells, it provides a vital role in holding tissues and organs together. Interestingly, when viewed from a specific angle, laminin has a shape similar to that of a cross.
The movie Self/less tells the fictional story of a wealthy, dying man trying to attain immortality by transferring his consciousness to a younger man’s “host” body. While things go well at first, it eventually becomes clear that all is not as it should be, as the memories of the younger man begin surfacing in the wealthy man’s mind, resulting in some dire complications.
I once heard an amazing true story of how one man’s conversion affected untold numbers of people. When the man—who lived in a South American village—heard the good news of the gospel and decided to follow Jesus, his life radically changed. First, he stopped being abusive toward his wife. Then he began selflessly acting on her behalf. After a while, his wife started her own business and hired other villagers. As a result, the village prospered financially. In turn, many children could spend their days learning at school instead of toiling all day in the fields.
A gospel song by Mahalia Jackson expresses that without God, we can’t do anything, and that we must depend on Jesus. We might nod at the lyrics and sing along, but perhaps we could take a moment to ponder how much we really do live out our faith in this wholehearted way. Do we depend on Jesus fully, rather than on the trappings of religion or tradition? Do we know in both our head and our heart that our sins are forgiven?
My wife and I have numerous friends who’ve struggled to have a baby. They’ve endured multiple trips to doctors, different kinds of infertility procedures, and the grief of losing children to miscarriages. It’s obvious how painful this has been for them—how much it’s filled them with doubts about themselves and about the God who promises to care for us.
One day I had a strong desire to pray for a neighbor with whom I had a distant, broken relationship. I prayed, Jesus, if you want me to talk with him, have him come up to the front of his house in the next few minutes (he was in his backyard). Just thirty seconds later he came to the front of the house where we talked for the next thirty minutes! The joy of restoration now marks our growing friendship.